Former DOJ cybercrimes prosecutor Chris Bruen walks into a dark apartment in Amsterdam to confront a hacker known as Black Vector. The hacker has stolen the source code for the world's most ubiquitous operating system, which powers everything from personal computers to the NSA's data centers. This should have been a routine assignment for Bruen, but instead of obtaining a confession, Bruen finds the hacker's dead body and uncovers a hidden flash drive that contains the code for a remarkably sophisticated computer virus known as Lurker.
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When a powerful client summons him for a midnight meeting, lawyer Chris Bruen knows something is very wrong. Zapper, the world's most popular search engine, has been compromised, and its most valuable asset - search algorithms - stolen. The company suspects that this most recent instance in a wave of high-tech crimes originated in China, and that the government itself is behind the systematic theft of US intellectual property.
When former computer-crimes prosecutor Chris Bruen and retired hacktivist Zoey Doucet open their San Francisco law firm, it's the best day of their professional lives. That is, until their first client walks through the door. Ian Ayres is an "ethical hacker" who was hired by a company to test the security of its online systems. On the job, he uncovered some highly classified information: the existence of a top-secret government surveillance agency and its Skeleton Key, a program that can break any form of encryption.